Personal, with an element of surprise

As I sat down at my desk at work to start the new year, I found two envelopes on my chair.

The first one was a big envelope, 11 x 14.  I opened it up to find a report with a full-color photo on the front, followed by more than 100 pages of text.  I immediately threw it in the trash.

The second one was a thin envelope with a Christmas card.  It looked like a lot of other “Season’s Greetings” cards I receive from nonprofits.  And then I opened it up and found a handwritten note from Olatunde Richardson, who just graduated from high school and is spending the year in Ecuador as a Global Citizen Year Fellow.  Olatunde works at the local Red Cross, he teaches English, art and music (he’s a budding musician), and his note definitely isn’t going into the trash.

Now, if I were part of the inner circle of the first nonprofit, the one that sent me the big report, the report might help me understand their work in more detail, might equip me to tell their story better…assuming I’m already 100% sold on them, 100% passionate about their work, 100% cerebral, and 100% willing to do the work of distilling all of that down into a story I can tell.

Unfortunately I’m none of those things and I suspect few are.

But something as remarkable as a kid taking the time to write me a personal note from Ecuador?  That’s just enough to tip the scales, to give me something worth sharing because it is personal and it totally surprised me.  So it invites me in.

The handwritten note works because it isn’t trying to do everything, it isn’t trying to answer every question I might have about Global Citizen Year (because it couldn’t, and nothing could).  It is trying to say thank you in a personal, memorable way, and it succeeds.

I know, I know – you have too many people you need to connect with, you could never do this for every single one.

Except if you could.  What if it wasn’t you writing the notes but instead the 50 people who care most about your organization, telling a personal story?

Nice to meet you, Olatunde.




3 thoughts on “Personal, with an element of surprise

  1. Spot-on Sasha. My Father was a dean at a major business school in the US and always took the time to do this. Today, is seems as our fascination with technology and our egos get in the way with us taking the time for “old-school” but extremely effective methods of communication. Your idea of enlisting a team of like-minded passionate members of the organization is the answer; and I’d bet the results would be very positive.

  2. Congrats to Olatunde! I was also Global Citizen Year- Ecuador Fellow, and yes, these are the things I hope define us for the rest of time! Global Citizen Year Fundraising was priceless in teaching me to directly contact the people who inspire me. Thank you Sasha, for encouragement!

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